The president and his interior secretary, Deb Haaland, could help further by clarifying the administration’s currently confusing oil and gas drilling policy. Mr. Biden pledged in his campaign to end new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, which is a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions. This promise seems ancient and distant. The Interior’s recent five-year offshore drilling plan opens up leases in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, while a recent environmental impact statement does not rule out, as environmentalists had hoped, the Willow Project, ConocoPhillips’ proposed development of oil and gas resources in the fragile Western Arctic.
Both the climate and the world are changing. What challenges will the future bring and how to respond to them?
Mr. Biden is clearly in a tight spot on drilling, given the political dangers of high gas prices and their impact on American household spending, and the possibility that Vladimir Putin’s hold on Russian oil and gas supplies could lead to even higher. The conservation community is not worried about the possibility of more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Meanwhile, there are other safeguards still available to the president, including reforms to climate-intensive farming practices and natural solutions to climate change that involve closing large areas of land and water to commercial activity.
One thing Mr. Biden is hoping for is the economic threats created by science and technology, private sector ingenuity, and earlier public investment. That includes, most notably, $90 billion in clean energy investments under the 2009 Economic Recovery Act, which were vilified by Republicans because of the collapse of one solar panel manufacturer but helped lead to a spectacular drop in the cost of renewable energy over the past decade . — almost 90 percent for solar power and about 70 percent for wind power, not to mention the advent of the electric car. (Tesla received a large federal investment loan in 2009.)
Combined with the rapid decline in coal, these technological advances have helped drive emissions down by about 20 percent since 2005. According to a recent report by Rhodium Group, a research firm.
It’s not nothing, they say, but it’s nowhere near enough to fulfill Mr. Biden’s promise to the world. To do that, we’re going to need a huge infusion of federal money, which in turn means an interested and engaged Congress. The threat that climate change poses to American lives and livelihoods is immediate and serious, and it requires a far greater commitment from those elected to protect them.